Above image is a screen-shot from www.Tracking-Point.com.
TrackingPoint, the Texas-based maker of expensive “Precision-Guided Firearms” with laser target tagging, has announced that the company is no longer accepting orders due to “financial difficulty”. Here is Tracking Point’s official statement, as posted on its website:
“Due to financial difficulty TrackingPoint will no longer be accepting orders. Thank you to our customers and loyal followers for sharing in our vision.”
This video shows how the TrackingPoint system works:
Expensive System Doesn’t Read the Wind
Why has TrackingPoint stumbled? Some speculate that TrackingPoint’s products are simply too expensive for the general sporting market. (A TrackingPoint AR10-type .308 rifle retails for $14,995, while a bolt-action .338 TP costs a whopping $49,995!) Additionally, though the TrackingPoint hardware incorporates sophisticated laser target designation technology, the shooter must still call the wind and enter wind values. If the shooter badly mid-judges wind speed or angle, he WILL miss his target at long range, even with all the advanced technology. For this reason, some analysts believed TrackingPoint promised more than it could deliver in the real world. Doubtless TrackingPoint was hoping to secure large, lucrative defense orders, but those have yet to materialize. The wind-calling issue, and concerns over battery life, have emerged as barriers to adoption by defense agencies.
Surprise Development after Recent Positive Reports
Curiously, Tracking Point’s announcement that it will not accept new orders follows positive reports issued earlier this year. A February 24, 2015 PRNewswire post stated: “[Y]ear-on-year unit growth was 281% and year-on-year bookings dollars grew 107%. The company believes it is the fastest-growing gun company in the world.” In a February 2015 financial release, TrackingPoint reported “growing demand and interest in its Precision-Guided Firearms from the defense sector. Testing performed at the U.S. Department of Defense’s Yuma, Arizona proving grounds has shown that a typical Soldier performed significantly better than the military’s elite marksmen when using TrackingPoint’s Precision Guided Firearms.”
“We have made a very large investment in Research and Development over the last 3 years. Our core technology is now foundationally mature, putting us in a position to lower operating costs,” said Frank Bruno, who took over as TrackingPoint CEO this year.
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SGT Tyler Payne of the USAMU gets rounds downrange quickly. Check out the spent brass.
The Sniper’s Hide Cup, one of the premier events on the tactical match circuit, has been underway this weekend in Colorado at the 6000-acre T3 Ranch. This year’s match got off to great start despite the bad weather. The 236 shooters completed all eight stages on time, a significant accomplishment in a field-type match of this scale. Here’s a video report from Day 2 of the event:
Day Two Report (CLICK for VIDEO):
One of highlight of the match, said Sniper’s Hide Founder Frank Galli, was the moving target stage: “This is about 530 yards from the shooter. It only has an 11-second window [per movement], and these guys are getting 25 rounds on target in less than two minutes. It’s a big deal for these guys to shoot that much at the mover.”
Doug Koenig secured his 16th NRA Action Pistol title this week at the 2015 NRA Bianchi Cup in Columbia, Missouri. Koenig’s final score was a perfect 1920 with 180 tie-breaking Xs. Koenig needed all those Xs to win — runner-up Jeremy Newell (1920-166X) also racked up a perfect 1920 score, but with 14 fewer Xs. Carl Bernosky, a ten-time NRA High Power Rifle Champion, placed third overall with 1918-180X. Australian shooter Anita Mackiewicz set a new record for a female shooter with a 1916-166X.
Koenig’s success at the Bianchi Cup is unparalleled. Doug’s 16 titles account for nearly half of the 37 total Bianchi championships held. Bruce Piatt has the next best career Bianchi Cup record, with five Bianchi titles, less than one-third of Koenig’s total.
Bernosky is Back!
We’re pleased to see our friend Carl Bernosky finish third overall at the 2015 NRA Bianchi Cup, scoring 1918-180X. This is a remarkable performance for a man better known for his TEN National High Power Rifle Championships. Carl, who went through back surgery last year, tells us: “I finished third … and won the Moving Target Event. It is great to be back in competition after 2014’s lost year of back problems and surgery. Thanks to my wonderful wife Margaret Bernosky for everything you’ve done and do that enables me to enjoy these shooting sports. Thank you Hornady Manufacturing and Leupold Optics for your support and friendships.”
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In our Shooters’ Forum, one member recently asked: “What makes an AR accurate? What parts on an AR can really affect accuracy — such as free-floating handguards, barrels, bolts, bolt carriers?” He wanted an honest, well-informed answer, not just sales pitches. Robert Whitley posted a very comprehensive answer to this question, based on his experience building and testing dozens of AR-platform rifles. Robert runs AR-X Enterprises, which produces match-grade uppers for High Power competitors, tactical shooters, and varminters.
Building an Accurate AR — What is Most Important
by Robert Whitley
There are a lot of things that can be done to an AR to enhance consistent accuracy, and I use the words “consistent accuracy” because consistency is a part of it (i.e. plenty of guns will give a couple great 5-shot groups, but won’t do a very good 10- or 20-shot groups, and some guns will shoot great one day and not so good on others).
Here are things we think are important to accuracy.
1. Great Barrel: You’ll want a premium match-grade barrel, well-machined with a good crown and a match-type chambering, true to the bore and well cut. The extension threads must also be cut true to the bore, with everything true and in proper alignment.
2. Rigid Upper: A rigid, heavy-walled upper receiver aids accuracy. The typical AR upper receiver was made for a lightweight carry rifle and they stripped all the metal they could off it to make it light to carry (which is advantageous for the military). The net result are upper receivers that are so thin you can flex them with your bare hands. These flexible uppers are “strong enough” for general use, but they are not ideal for accuracy. Accuracy improves with a more rigid upper receiver.
3. True Receiver Face: We’ve found that truing the receiver face is valuable. Some may argue this point but it is always best to keep everything related to the barrel and the bore in complete alignment with the bore (i.e. barrel extension, bolt, upper receiver, carrier, etc.).
4. Barrel Extension: You should Loctite or glue the barrel extension into the upper receiver. This holds it in place all the way front to back in the upper receiver. Otherwise if there is any play (and there typically is) it just hangs on the face of the upper receiver completely dependent on the face of the upper receiver as the sole source of support for the barrel as opposed to being made more an integral part of the upper receiver by being glued-in.
5. Gas Block: You want a gas block that does not impose pointed stress on the barrel. Clamp-on types that grab all the way around the barrel are excellent. The blocks that are pinned on with tapered pins that wedge against the barrel or the slip on type of block with set screws that push up from underneath (or directly on the barrel) can deform the bore inside of the barrel and can wreck the accuracy of an otherwise great barrel.
6. Free-Float Handguard: A rigid, free-float handguard (and I emphasize the word rigid) really makes a difference. There are many types of free-float handguards and a free-float handguard is, in and of itself, a huge improvement over a non-free-float set up, but best is a rigid set-up. Some of the ones on the market are small diameter, thin and/or flexible and if you are shooting off any type of rest, bipod, front bag, etc., a rigid fore-end is best since ARs want to jump, bounce and twist when you let a shot go, as the carrier starts to begin its cycle before the bullet exits the bore.
7. Barrel Contour: You want some meat on the barrel. Between the upper receiver and the gas block don’t go real thin with a barrel (we like 1″ diameter if it’s workable weight-wise). When you touch off a round and the bullet passes the gas port, the gas system immediately starts pressuring up with a gas impulse that provides vibrations and stress on the barrel, especially between the gas block back to the receiver. A heavier barrel here dampens that. Staying a little heavier with barrel contour through the gas block area and out to the muzzle is good for the same reasons. ARs have a lot going on when you touch off a round and the gas system pressures up and the carrier starts moving (all before the bullet exits the bore) so the more things are made heavier and rigid to counteract that the better — within reason (I’m not advocating a 12-lb barrel).
8. Gas Tube Routing Clearance: You want a gas tube that runs freely through the barrel nut, through the front of the upper receiver, and through the gas key in the carrier. Ensure the gas tube is not impinged by any of them, so that it does not load the carrier in a stressed orientation. You don’t want the gas tube bound up so that when the gas tube pressures up it immediately wants to transmit more force and impulse to the barrel than would normally occur. We sometimes spend a lot of time moving the gas block with gas tube on and off new build uppers and tweaking gas tubes to get proper clearance and alignment. Most gas tubes do need a little “tweaking” to get them right — factory tubes may work OK but they typically do not function optimally without hand-fitting.
9. Gas Port Tuning: You want to avoid over-porting the gas port. Being over-gassed makes the gas system pressure up earlier and more aggressively. This causes more impulse, and increases forces and vibration affecting the top end and the barrel. Tune the gas port to give the amount of pressure needed to function properly and adequately but no more.
10. Front/Back Bolt Play: If accuracy is the game, don’t leave a lot of front/back bolt play (keep it .003″ but no more than .005″). We’ve seen factory rifles run .012″ to .015″ play, which is OK if you need to leave room for dirt and grime in a military application. However, that amount of play is not ideal for a high-accuracy AR build. A lot of front/back bolt play allows rounds to be hammered into the chamber and actually re-formed in a non-consistent way, as they are loaded into the chamber.
11. Component Quality: Use good parts from a reputable source and be wary of “gun show specials”. All parts are NOT the same. Some are good, some are not so good, and some aftermarket parts are simply bad. Don’t be afraid to use mil-spec-type carriers; by and large they are excellent for an accuracy build. Also, remember that just because a carrier says “National Match” or something else on it does not necessarily mean it’s any better. Be wary of chrome-plated parts as the chrome plating can change the parts dimensionally and can also make it hard to do hand-fitting for fit and function.
12. Upper to Lower Fit: A good upper/lower fit is helpful. For quick and dirty fit enhancement, an Accu-Wedge in the rear helps a lot. The ultimate solution is to bed the upper to a specific lower so that the upper and lower, when together, are more like one integral unit. For the upper receivers we produce, we try to get the specs as close as we can, but still fit the various lowers in the market place.
13. Muzzle Attachments: Don’t screw up the muzzle (literally). Leave as much metal on the barrel at the muzzle as you can. People like to thread the muzzle for a flash hider, suppressor, muzzle brake, or some other attachment, but if you really want accuracy, leave as much metal as you can there. And, if you have something that screws on, set it up so that it can be put on and have it stay there without putting a lot of torque and stress on it right where the bullet exits the bore. If you are going to thread the end of the barrel, make it concentric with the bore and make sure what you screw on there is as well. For all muzzle attachments, also ensure that the holes through which the bullet passes through are dead true to the bore. Many aftermarket screw-on things are not so good that way. Anything that vents gas should vent symmetrically (i.e. if it vents left, it should vent equally right, and likewise, if it vents up, it should vent down equally). Uneven venting of gas can wreck accuracy.
14. Quality Ammunition: Ammo is a whole story by itself, but loads that are too hot typically shoot poorly in an AR-15. If you want accuracy out of an AR-15, avoid overly hot loads. Shown below are test groups shot with four (4) different uppers, all with moderate loads. These four uppers all pretty much had the same features and things done to them as explained in this article, and they all shot great.
Sweet Home Alabama, indeed! Now THIS is how we like to see federal funds used (rather than squandered in programs that don’t benefit anyone). Check out the impressive new Talladega range above. Very soon you’ll be able to compete there. In exactly two weeks, the brand new, 500-acre CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park hosts its first-ever shooting tournament, a D-Day Memorial Match on 6-7 June. The CMP will also hold a dedication ceremony on June 6.
The new Marksmanship Center has received its finishing touches and is ready for action. This is an impressive facility, with what may be the largest “clubhouse” of any shooting center in the Western Hemisphere as you can see in the top-most photo above. Talladega features high-tech Kongsberg electronic targets at 200, 300, and 600 yards. Watch this video to see how they work.
Register Now for Inaugural D-Day Match at Talladega
The first official matches at the new CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park will be fired on the weekend of June 6-7, 2015. The celebration is a two-day event which includes tours of the facility. A special John C. Garand “D-Day Anniversary” Rifle Match On Saturday, June 6th will officially open the facility. On Sunday there will be an EIC Service Rifle Match, EIC Service Pistol Match, and a CMP .22 Rimfire EIC Pistol Match. The inagural event is limited to the first 350 Competitors, so register soon via the CMP’s Competition Tracker website.
Here’s a great Do-It-Yourself (DIY) project from Martin Tardif. Build your own height-adjustable ammo caddy for under ten bucks. This is a great project for F-Open competitors as well as anyone who shoots with a pedestal front rest, either on the ground or from a bench. The ammo caddy attaches, via a flexible arm, to your front rest. The flexy arm allows you to position your ammunition close to your rifle’s feeding port. That makes it easy to grab cartridges and load them into the chamber without shifting your shooting position. Nice job Martin!
Martin Explains How to Build the Ammo Caddy
Here are some pics of my DIY P.L.A.B. (Port Level Ammo Block). I cannibalized the goose neck from a Craftsman bendy-style utility light and bought a 3.5″x 1″ Acetal disk on eBay. I then drilled out the disk to accept twenty .284 Winchester rounds and screwed the disk to the bendy arm. The arm, by itself, wasn’t sturdy enough to support my fully loaded ammo block, so I inserted a 1/8″-diameter steel rod cut to length into the arm before I screwed it to the disk. On this Bald Eagle rest, I wasn’t using the windage adjustment cable. That allowed me to secure the bottom end of the arm to the unused 5/16″ x 18 bolt hole for the cable. [Editor’s Note: For other pedestal rest types/brands you may need to drill a hole for the base of the flexy arm.]
Kudos to Martin Tardif for his clever use of inexpensive materials. The total cost of the whole project, according to Martin, was just $8.00!
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Here’s something you’ve never seen before, a joy-stick (coaxial) bipod with a front counter-weight. This one-of-a-kind “JoyPod” was produced by Seb Lambang for our friend Darrell Buell. With a very porky ultra-long-range rifle to support, Darrell needed a JoyPod that wouldn’t sink under a heavy load.
Seb explains: “This is the world’s first Joypod equipped w/ an adjustable counterweight, to balance his 75-lb gun. I did some experiments and put some weights ranging up to 60+ lbs on the top, and I found that the joystick action works like a regular one….it’s smooth, light, and precise. In addition, the counterweight can be bent down to not interfere with the bottom of the barrel. I would guess Darrell would only need one ‘ring’ for his 75-lb gun. He can move the ring back and forth to find the best balance. Once the gun is on the bipod, it would only take a few minutes to tune or find the balance. The counterweight is secured into the front center shaft by a thumb screw, and there is a tightly fitted pivotal joint on the counterweight to allow angle adjustment.”
Darrell is happy with his new toy: “In addition to the adjustable counterweight system on the front, this JoyPod comes with a longer, solid joystick. These additions will make for extremely smooth, precise adjustments, even if the rifle weighs in at 75 pounds or more. Not including the counterweight, the actual structure of this bipod weighs in at a mere 1.09 pounds — exactly what the standard JoyPod weighs. It is extremely strong, however. Seb has pictures of himself standing on the pod … and he weighs 150 pounds! The custom Pod-Pad with insets for the skis is just another one of Seb’s [products].”
Speaking of Pod-Pads, look carefully at the photo again. There’s a special new feature you might have missed. Seb explains: “I also created a “groove” on the Pod-Pad, where the feet of the bipod will ride. I was informed that was OK for the ELR match/discipline. That will help the rifle and bipod combo to track better under recoil.”
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The NRA Bianchi Cup kicked off yesterday under wet, gray skies. Despite the rain, many shooters still managed to pull off perfect scores through the first day, including defending champion Kevin Angstadt and 15-time winner Doug Koenig. Today sunshine greeted the shooters and the action continues…
The Where To Shoot Mobile App quickly locates shooting ranges near you, drawing on North America’s most comprehensive directory of shooting ranges. Users can search by current location, state, or zip code. Once you locate a range, you can view activities offered along with a summary of range facilities. You can even get driving directions.
The app is modeled after NSSF’s popular WhereToShoot.org® website and is updated frequently with range information for every U.S. state and Canadian province. Once you’ve located a place to shoot, the App can provide directions to the range. The App also includes video tips for shooters, news, and firearm-safety information.
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Here is a very interesting rifle, a true metal/wood hybrid that combines an aluminum front section with figured walnut in the rear half. As you can see, this unique rifle also features a barrel block that allows the Savage action to float. You may be wondering “how is the metal section connected to the wood?” The gun’s owner/builder epoxied a stainless steel tube in the wood and that tube is secured in the aluminum fore-end with set screws.
Forum member Justin V. reports: “Sometime last fall my buddy wanted to build barrel-blocked Bavage. He is a machinist by trade so he was able to build all of the custom components himself. I know he put a ton of time into this thing over the winter, taking his time to get it done right. If you shoot in Cadillac or Midland, Michigan you will probably see him around. He tried to shoot a match this past weekend but was rained out. Hopefully it will stop raining in Michigan so he can see what it can do at 600 yards. Here are the results….” Learn more about this gun in this FORUM Thread.
If you look at that 5-round group you might think it was shot with a 6 PPC or maybe a 6mmBR. But no, this was done with heavy 180gr Berger Hybrid bullets and the .284 Shehane, an improved version of the .284 Winchester. In fact, this impressive sub-quarter MOA group was shot while fire-forming with a very well-worn barrel!
Here’s a 5-shot 0.191″ group at 100 yards with my .284 Shehane fireforming loads. This barrel has 2200 rounds through it. It had 2000 as a straight .284 Win and then I set it back to .284 Shehane to form brass with. This was the first five rounds through it after I cleaned it after the last match. [The load was] 180 Hybrids with 54.0 grains of H4831 SC.
Ya, I figured why not I had some old barrels laying around so I just chopped 2″ off the back and 1″ off the front and chambered it up as a Shehane. Had 1000 pieces to fireform and didn’t want to do all that on a brand new barrel.
My fireform loads are going 2765 FPS. I have a 29″ barrel also though since it’s a setback. Once you get it formed I would push it faster than that or I wouldn’t even bother with the Shehane. My old straight .284 load at 2890 fps had ES spread in single digits for 10 shots. I figured if I get it up to 2935-2950 fps that will be a point or two saved in a several day match.
Fellow .284 Shehane shooter Erik Cortina notes that the .284 Shehane has a velocity edge over the straight .284 Win because it holds more powder: “The Shehane has more capacity than the .284 Winchester. Ryan is using 54.0 grains simply as a fire-forming load. Typical load for a Shehane is around 57.0 grains of Hodgdon H4831 SC.” By blowing the sidewalls out 0.010″, the .284 Shehane picks up about 3.3 grains of extra case capacity. That enhancement makes a BIG difference. The extra boiler room is enough to drive the 180s at 2900-2950 fps with H4831sc, with long barrels.
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As a cartridge case is reloaded multiple times, burnt powder residue and carbon builds up on the inside of the case. Unless the case interior is cleaned in some fashion, eventually you’ll see a reduction in case capacity. One of our Forum members from Australia wonders about the effects of reduced case capacity: “If the capacity of the case decreases as the crud builds up, then it effectively reduces the chamber size. Wouldn’t that change the pressure produced from that of an equivalent clean case?”
Ultrasonic Cleaning Example:
Interesting Test of Case Capacity Changes
Forum member Fred Bohl has actual test results that can help answer the above question. Fred proved that, over a 20-reload cycle, the case capacity of uncleaned cases did, indeed, decline a small amount. However, surprisingly, this did not seem to affect the actual chronographed velocity of the load. ES did increase, but Fred believes the higher ES was due to changes in case-neck tension, rather than due to the slight reduction in case capacity.
A while back, John Siebel, creator of the VarmintsForFun.com website, put together a 6-6.5×47 Varminter with a Lilja 10-twist barrel and BAT RBRP three-lug action. Richard Franklin smithed the gun using a Model 10 Varminter stock, one of Richard’s own stock designs.
Varmint Loads with 75gr and 87gr V-Maxs
Our Forum readers have asked for recommended 6-6.5×47 Lapua loads for the lighter bullets. Well, John has published some useful load data on his site that should provide excellent starting points for 75gr and 87gr projectiles. John writes: “The 75s and 87s will be my main groundpig/varmint rounds. I have worked up loads for all of them but I need to work on the 95s to fine tune them for the egg shoot. I used CCI 450 primers for all loads. They have shown to reduce ES greatly. This case has a small primer pocket and I reasoned with the slower burning powders I wanted to get my velocity as high as possible. I had plenty of H 414 and N 550 … so that’s what I tried. Velocities and case fullness seemed to be pretty dang good.”
John favored Vihtavuori N550 for the 75 V-Max, while H414 was his powder of choice for the 87gr V-Max. John found these two powders offered near 100% fill density. CLICK HERE to view John’s load details and the view more photos of John’s handsome varmint rig.
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Minnesota and Vermont could soon become the 40th and 41st states to legalize the ownership of firearm suppressors. The Minnesota Legislature recently approved legislation (SF 878), which among other things would legalize the ownership of suppressors and their use for hunting. Additionally, late last week, the Vermont Senate added an amendment to a hunting bill (H. 5) to legalize the ownership and possession of suppressors. If you are a resident of either of these states, the NSSF requests that you contact your governor in support of these bills. Suppressors are currently legal to use and possess in 39 states, while 35 states currently allow suppressor use for hunting.
Currently, suppressor ownership is legal in 39 states, provided the owners comply with federal paperwork requirements (and pay a tax for each unit). This graphic shows where silencers are legal to own, and where they may be used for hunting:
Map created by American Silencer Institute (ASA).
Approximately 27,000 suppressors, also called “silencers” or “sound moderators”, are sold in the United States every year. That may surprise you because the main-stream media often incorrectly report that suppressors are illegal. In fact, suppressors are legal to own in 39 states, provided that the devices are acquired in compliance with federal and state laws (which are explained below). In most of those 39 states, owners of legally-acquired suppressors may use their “cans” for hunting.
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Here’s a smart new product that offers security with rapid access, using RFID (radio frequency identification) technology. The NRA Quick Vent Safe holds a handgun, keys, flashlight, or valuables. Using a coded RFID fob or card, you can instantly open the Vent Safe with a wave of your hand.
The Fullbore (Palma) World Championships will be held at Camp Perry, Ohio this summer. The American squad arrived a bit early — for a few days of team practice. Our friend Anette Wachter (aka 30 Cal Gal) is in Ohio with Team USA and she posted some photos on Facebook. Skies were gray, but that didn’t deter the American shooters who practiced their shooting under the watchful eyes of top wind coaches.
Take a look at the photo above. How many ace American shooters can you spot? Here’s one hint — pulling the black wheeled case is John Whidden, past U.S. Long-Range National Champion.
At right is the first bit of Team USA swag. Anette says there is more to come — team shirts and jackets were sized and ordered for all the U.S.A. shooters and coaches.
1000 yards? Heck, for these KO2M guys, that’s just a warm-up — they plan to shoot out to 2500 yards and beyond. A new ultra-long-range event will be held this summer in New Mexico at the NRA Whittington Center. The King of Two Miles (KO2M) match will be held on July 1-2, 2015, right before the Fifty Caliber Shooters Assocation (FCSA) 1000-yard World Championships. If you like hurling big projectiles at very long ranges, Whittington is the place to be in July. The KO2M event is “wide-open” — any caliber is allowed and rifle size/weight is limited only by the shooter’s ability to lift the gun himself. Rifles will be shot prone with bipod.
Two Miles (Well Not Quite)
The name of the event is a bit of a misnomer, as the max range will be roughly 2500 yards. That’s WAY less than a full two miles (3520 yards). KO2M organizers do plan to go all the way out to two miles in the future, but they say their target and spotting technology isn’t up to that yet. Accordingly, the 2015 course of fire will include steel and electronic targets placed at known distances from 1000 to roughly 2500 yards. Next year, hopefully, the max range will be extended to over two miles, but, for now: “Current optical systems do not allow that.”
“The overturning moment MW tends to rotate the bullet about an axis, which goes through the CG (center of gravity) and which is perpendicular to the plane of drag….
Ruprecht Nennstiel, a forensic ballistics expert from Wiesbaden, Germany, has authored a great resource about bullet behavior in flight. Nennstiel’s comprehensive article, How Do Bullets Fly, explains all the forces which affect bullet flight including gravity, wind, gyroscopic effects, aerodynamic drag, and lift. Nennstiel even explains the rather arcane Magnus Force and Coriolis Effect which come into play at long ranges. Nennstiel’s remarkable resource contains many useful illustrations plus new experimental observations of bullets fired from small arms, both at short and at long ranges.
Shadowgraph of .308 Winchester Bullet
A convenient index is provided so you can study each particular force in sequence. Writing with clear, precise prose, Nennstiel explains each key factor that affects external ballistics. For starters, we all know that bullets spin when launched from a rifled barrel. But Nennstiel explains in greater detail how this spinning creates gyroscopic stability: